Take a moment and think about how you most often hear development work portrayed in the public discourse? Two divergent narratives come to my mind.
First, international aid is unashamedly tied to foreign policy objectives, money is wasted, and day-to-day aid work is challenging, if not futile. The narrative goes something like this: So-and-so country is poor or vulnerable. Rich countries try to help them. So-and-so is still poor and vulnerable.
On the other hand, according to many NGOs and international agencies, our day-to-day work in the development sector is instantly transformative, not to mention selfless. The narrative goes something like this: So-and-so person is poor or vulnerable. We [the organization] helps so-and-so. So-and-so is not poor anymore.
That’s a pretty polarizing view of anti-poverty and development work – all good or all bad. People working on the ground know that neither is an accurate picture of reality. And this reality is harder and harder for communications staff and the media to ignore.